What Can We Learn from the Death of Gab?

Vox and the Z-Man have posts up on the shutting down of Gab.

http://thezman.com/wordpress/?p=15418

https://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/10/they-cant-say-i-didnt-warn-them_28.html

There are a few ways of talking about this.  First off, we can discuss what is lost by a Gab shutdown.  Personally, I’ve never really completely understood Twitter or Gab.  It just seemed like everyone linking to everyone else but not actually reading the content.  What the actual value of that is escapes me.  I tried reading my linked content many times and found it a muddled mess.  Maybe that’s what happens when a million people are mixed in a blender together.  But I will confess I probably just didn’t know what I was doing.  So, all in all from a personal point of view it won’t actually affect me.  Now, maybe it has actually been useful for other folks for communication and publicity.  If anyone has found it valuable, say so in the comments.  But from my point of view it wasn’t very useful.

The next way we can look at it is what can we learn from how it was shut down.  Andrew Torba was vehement that he wanted freedom of speech to be the defining characteristic of Gab.  That sounds like a laudable ideal.  In practice, however, the content became pretty foul.  There were some pretty crazy people on the site.  Now, it’s unclear how much was just trolling by those looking to destroy Gab and which was legitimate nutbaggery.  But regardless, the result was unpleasant and chaotic.  Not being a Twitter user maybe I’m just unaware that this is par for the course in a social media arena.  If that is so then it sort of reinforces my impression that Twitter and all these social media environments are toxic places that are mostly about battling your enemies for sport.  I run a very different type of website.  It’s a microscopic place compared to Gab (never mind Twitter).  But we have to deal with the same questions of how to regulate the written interactions between real people.  I have the advantage that I can monitor the discussions on my own.  The scope is possible in a small venue.  For a place like Twitter or Gab it becomes expensive and difficult to maintain a consistent policy because of the need for multiple individuals with their individual points of view.  With respect to freedom of speech on my site, I tell people they can speak their minds but keep it reasonable.  Obviously, that isn’t a highly precise statement.  What I’m trying to say is stay within legal and cultural norms.  Different people have different perspectives on those and the only standard that I have to decide on what conforms and what doesn’t is my own judgement.  But that isn’t too different from any other venue where people interact and debate.  I’m guessing that a truly free speech site will always be a sort of giant demolition derby.  If your site is perceived as being on the right-wing it is clear that you will be punished whenever the opportunity presents itself so allowing the crazier individuals to let it all hang out will eventually lead to the situation that occurred at Gab.  So, the lesson to learn is a fully free speech site is not going to happen in the present environment.

And finally, we can look at what should be changed to avoid this waste of resources.  The first thing that comes to mind is an analysis could be done to find out exactly what are the useful functions that a Twitter, Facebook or YouTube serves and how, if at all, they could be replicated in a competing right-wing entity.  I am hardly qualified to do such an analysis but I’ll at least attempt to discuss some of the more obvious answers.  The two most important functions these sites accomplish is communication and commerce.  The sites allow people to find their audience.  To the extent that they are right-wing sites I guess that will help pre-select for the audience intended.  The second function is allowing content creators to monetize their product.  This will be tied into advertising revenue.  From what I’ve heard advertising revenues, even on established giants like YouTube and Instagram, are shrinking drastically.  What I think this all means is that a viable right-wing social media site will be a site where content providers will pay a fee to obtain visibility and the site will provide amenities like video storage space, band-width and some amount of moderation of the trolls.  Eventually, popular content producers will be able to sell advertising on their videos and other content products.  To me this seem to be the future of right-wing social media.  And it seems like a reasonable model.  Eventually the site will develop other ways to monetize its value.  Subscriptions like Netflix and Amazon eventually will be the end state.

So that’s my take on what can be learned from the Gab debacle.  Experience is the cruelest teacher but the most effective.

What Will the Right Wing Look Like in a Year?

Who survives the great purge on Twitter and Facebook and YouTube and who does not?  It’s an interesting question.  If being banished from YouTube is the end of your career then I guess the ranks will be significantly thinned next year.  Apparently, the powers that be want to go this way.  It will be interesting to see if anyone steps into the breech with a platform that functions enough like YouTube to provide a revenue stream to those dispossessed from the mainstream sites.  As demonstrated by the YouTube shooter, some people can make a living (of some sort) from YouTube popularity alone.  I myself, not having a presence on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, am currently outside the influence of the conventional social media networks.  But there are quite a few people who earn a living off of the advertising that a YouTube site generates.  Will these people simply disappear or will they attempt to self-monetize via paid subscriptions or some other mechanism?  This is a pretty important question.  People talk a lot about building new platforms for the right but actually getting one up and running is much easier said than done.  Being forced to do it will be a painful and difficult ordeal.  But if anyone does make the transition it will be an important beachhead that will provide that person a significant advantage.  If he can make the service available to others it will be a virtual monopoly since I doubt a second conservative social media entrepreneur will spring up to challenge it.

Or maybe YouTube once put outside the reach of conservatives will be bypassed as a concept.  After all, podcasts and website-based subscriptions are easy enough to do.  No one has to use the YouTube model.  Personally, I like the idea of a podcast type arrangement.  I don’t currently do anything behind a paywall but I actually think it’s the arrangement that makes the most sense.  If you have something of value people will be willing to pay something for it.  The negotiations will of course be how much.  I have in the past subscribed to a few of these.  But I am very interested to see which way all this goes.  In some ways, it seems the folks at YouTube and Twitter may be making a big mistake.  If they do force the Right to become self-sufficient on their own platforms it might actually strengthen them and remove the leverage the Left currently has and uses against the Right to great effect.

I really feel the Right Wing has been very ineffective up until now exploiting the power of the internet commercially.  It’s shocking how little has been done to challenge the media monopoly the old media enjoys even over the internet.  Basically, a handful of sites make up the bulk of right wing opinion.  Hopefully this will improve in the next few years and we can hope to see less reliance on Fox News and Drudge.  Even Real Clear Politics seems to have way too much left wing editorial positioning and not enough interesting voices from the Right.  American Greatness is good but voices from even farther to the Right should be included to capture the range of ideas that need to be considered.

 

Two Takes on the De-Platforming Threat to Right Wing Businesses by Facebook, Twitter, Google, Etc.

Vox and the ZMan both look at this situation and address different aspects.  Vox says if you don’t build your own platforms you will be destroyed.  Zman sees the current situation as a Public Utility, no different from the electric company discriminating against its customers.

Both good and valid points.  But I think Vox is speaking to right now and Zman is pointing out something for the justice department to look into.  As someone who use Google for various services it brings home the point that having your own support system and not depending on liberals is a good idea.  But a hard one to achieve.